“[The order] came through at 11:00 PM,” she recalls. “It was fulfilled by 7:00 the next morning. When I reached out to congratulate the vendor for their first order, they didn’t even realize the order came from us because the integration and fulfillment was so easy!”
-- Michelle Silverstein, co-founder, The Verticale
As the premiere fashion publication Glossy reported, The Verticale is the modern mall, reimagined.
The site was born out of a desire to curate a collection of the best brands and eventually, offer an Amazon-like convenience factor, but with a focus on mission-driven, impactful brands who had real stories and offered high quality products. Convictional helped turn those dreams into reality, giving The Verticale the infrastructure to operate and compete at the same level as a “real” enterprise retailer, minus the overhead expense of a growing headcount.
The Verticale vision
From the beginning, Jaclyn Grauman had a vision of turning The Verticale into a shoppable store.
Jaclyn originally started The Verticale as an editorial and review site, like IMDB but for direct to consumer (DTC) and digitally native vertical brands (DNVB) brands. Jaclyn has a background in PR and communications in the fashion industry.
She felt a need in the market to create a centralized place that curated, reviewed and talked about the new era of retail brands. With The Verticale, she set out to create a place where consumers could discover, learn about the stories, and shop more meaningful, value-driven brands in one centralized place.
So, she started curating and reviewing brands at The Verticale.
This was back in 2018.
Two years later, in May 2020, Verticale co-founder and now-COO, Michelle Silverstein came onboard and the pair sought to put the 2nd part of The Verticale’s vision into play and transform The Verticale into a selective, values-based marketplace by fall 2020.
The business model & the technology partner
Michelle and Jaclyn knew that they would need a dropship partner to get the streamlined set up they wanted with The Verticale Marketplace.
With Michelle’s background in operations and product management, she knew that the heaviest lift would be in getting all the products and brands onboarded to their Shopify site. It was also the step that had the most moving parts, and thus, most room for error. Michelle emphasizes, “Every headcount weighs in on our P&L. If we can minimize the amount of hourly workers or time that we have, it allows us to put more effort into the technology, into onboarding new brands, and growing [the business].”
Jaclyn and Michelle reached out to us before they signed contracts with the brands. This was because The Verticale wanted to make sure they had the operations, team, and technology that would help these trade relationships flourish.
They wanted a dropship technology that could ideally do both product onboarding and order management. The ideal scenario was that after the 3-week sales process and the contract signing, the vendor onboarding process wouldn’t take much more time.
The co-founders knew how crucial it was to create a vendor experience that was as seamless as their customer experience. After all, they were onboarding some of the biggest, most selective brands in ecommerce, like cookware brand Caraway.
They decided to go with Convictional because our system handles both product onboarding and order management. Our team also had experience supporting similar B2C vertical marketplaces and other ecommerce brands.
Automated vendor onboarding & product validation
The Verticale expected partner onboarding to be a CSV file upload, a bunch of manual work, and tons of issues to fix afterwards.
Instead of having to do the bulk of the onboarding work themselves, Convictional synced their store with their partners’ stores, even when they were built on different ecommerce platforms. All their team had to do was take care of any outlier issues. Michelle recalls, “We actually had a brand onboard in 20 minutes once.”
Instead of validating inventory right when a customer purchases an order, Convictional’s product validation methodology preempts sync issues and fixes them before a brand goes live on its platform. This way, the marketplace retailer rests assured that when a product is live, the inventory data they see is accurate by the second.
This also means that the order information data gets passed back to the partners who can fulfill those orders. This prevents the customer from having a poor purchase experience.to avoid issues of “Where’s my order?”, “Oh I don’t have this product”, or “I can’t fulfill this order”.
Finally, this feature is also a value add in partner negotiations. The Verticale’s brand partners loved the fact that they didn’t have to jump through hoops or send a universal product code to put their products on sale in the marketplace. With a few clicks of their mouse, they could have their inventory and product page descriptions up and synced on The Verticale.
Order Management & Automated Order Splitting
Early on, the team at The Verticale learned that brands and vendors all create their products differently, based on their respective product description pages. And if they did things manually, they wouldn’t be able to capture every order and every inventory update. This kept Michelle and Jaclyn up at night. Michelle says, “That was our biggest fear. When we first started we were wondering, ‘What if it doesn't work? What if an order doesn’t pass through to the brand?’ ”
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Michelle still remembers the first order that came through the system. “[The order] came through at 11:00 PM,” she recalls. “It was fulfilled by 7:00 the next morning. When I reached out to congratulate the vendor for their first order, they didn’t even realize the order came from us because the integration and fulfillment was so easy!”
The system doesn’t break if The Verticale receives an order that includes 2-3 brands in one order. Convictional automatically splits and routes the SKUs to the respective vendors. The Verticale’s team can still see the details on the individual SKUs within the order as they become available, ensuring an on-brand purchase experience for the end consumer.
Editor’s note: The question of having multiple brands in a single order is a valid one. Most marketplaces, like Uber Eats, don’t have the technology to allow customers to place purchases from multiple vendors or brands within one order.
This kind of seamless syncing isn’t just a weight off of The Verticale team’s back. It’s also a huge burden off of their vendor’s shoulders.
Many of the brands The Verticale works with have small teams. But because of this seamless order fulfillment integration, they fulfill orders from The Verticale in the exact same way than if they received them from their own website. This means that The Verticale’s brand partners have a new channel to generate more revenue, without having to increase their headcount or assign personnel specifically for it.
Vendor Management: Automated Billing
For The Verticale, Convictional took out 90% of the bookkeeping and reconciliation they would typically have to do or hire a professional to do.
At first, the team thought they would have to manually invoice every single brand, figure out returns, and reconcile credit cards. They were pleasantly surprised to find that Convictional did all of that for them.
Once vendors fulfill orders from The Verticale, Convictional syncs the tracking information across the platform. The system files away a vendor’s invoice and charges The Verticale’s credit card once the vendor. The system automatically creates and posts invoices from vendors and makes sure they get paid out in 1-2 business days, all from within Stripe, The Verticale’s payment processor. All that Michelle and Jaclyn have to do is pay their credit card bill. They didn’t have to set up ACH transfers, write cheques, or send invoices with 30-day terms.
Of course, Jaclyn and Michelle still need to keep an eye on the system because some hiccups happen here and there. But Michelle says, “That’s a whole team that we don't really have to have any longer at our company, which is awesome.”
Convictional: Enabling Retailers to Grow Revenue without Growing Headcount
When Michelle started reaching out and talking to brands for a beta of the marketplace, she found that it was about a 3-week sales process to get their buy in about being on the site. Once the brand signed the contract, she would send them the Convictional onboarding link and they would be in the system within a few days.
These days, a brand can list on The Verticale as quickly as 2 days after they sign the contract. And instead of the retail average of a 6-month onboarding period, The Verticale takes just 3 weeks to do all their sourcing, buying, and merchandising for each cohort or category of vendors they want to get on the site.
Michelle worked in the technology industry, prior to taking on her role as The Verticale’s COO. She appreciates Convictional as a technology partner who actually answers their emails.
“Since we're launching a new company we don't have other resources. Oftentimes, it's one person doing the job of 10 people. You created a great experience for us to be able to figure it all out and get it done because you guys took on a lot of that onboarding lift. And you created a great experience for the brands because you liked working with the brands and you answered their questions as much as you possibly could.”
We’re proud to help The Verticale function as a competitive new retailer, take out the heavy lifting, and provide them with a whole level of growth possibilities for their B2C marketplace moving forward.